“Golbez…” a voice said his name.
It wasn’t the name that most people called him. That would be his middle name, Benjamin.
His first name.
The name no one used. The name that he now realized was from his father’s Lunar heritage.
It was kinda awkward to introduce yourself to other kids as “Golbez.” Think of all the different things they could do to that name to make fun of it.
“Ben” was much simpler. “Ben” sounded human.
Even though you’re not human.
He now understood why he was Ben and not Golbez. But he still didn’t understand why his father had never told him.
“Golbez…” the voice said again. It had a lilting accent. One that was familiar to him.
“Dad? Is that you?” the boy asked. Looking up, he realized he was sitting, curled up next to his bed in the room in Zot.
A fuzzy moment ago, he had been in the great cavern with the Shadow dragon and his friends. They’d triggered a rune trap. They fell.
And now, I’m here. How does that work?
“Hello, Golbez,” the voice said again. It was a gentle voice, with a level tone. One that softly commanded attention. A dangerous voice.
“Eh… no! You’re not my father!” Ben frowned, pushing himself backwards on his palms as he got a good look at the figure in the shadows.
He wasn’t a tall man. But something about him seemed large and intimidating, even though the man had not moved an inch. The boy squinted, his sight blurring and contorting the man’s shape. Something like shadows moved under his skin. His eyes burned red, reflecting from his glasses, which he slowly pushed up with one finger.
“Are you still waiting for him?” the man asked, his voice smooth as death.
“Dad will come for me when he finds out where I am,” Ben responded. He didn’t want to tell this man these things. But he couldn’t stop himself from speaking.
“Are you certain?” the man asked.
The boy felt the voice twisting something in his mind. Even though he struggled against it, suddenly, he felt doubt. A doubt that had not existed before.
“It’s been so long now. Maybe your father has forgotten you.”
It was as if those words spoke these things into reality. A terrible reality where Ben was all alone. Forgotten. Unwanted. Abandoned.
“No!” The boy continued to struggle. His words were weak to his ears, but he wished they had the power to make reality, too. “My dad wouldn’t just forget about me!”
The man took a step forward. He was dressed in a long, violet robe. A multi-colored sash strapped across his waist and dangled in front. His hair was long and pulled back in a single tail behind him.
But all Ben could see were those terrible, red eyes. They spread a crimson glow on the back of the man’s glasses.
“Perhaps he thinks you are dead. Or that you ran away, never to come home again,” the man said.
It made sense. Ben had been gone for so long. Why would anyone be looking for him still?
“By now, I’d think you’d be a clever boy and have realized your father is not going to come.”
Ben choked, “But…”
“Your father knew how dangerous the dark creatures were. The one that chased you that day,” the voice burrowed deeper and deeper into his mind. “The ones who captured you. Who brought you to the Tower.”
This man could see into his past. He knew things that he shouldn’t.
“He knew how dangerous they were, yet he sent you to Baron alone.”
“Dad didn’t mean for this to happen!” Ben protested. That was something he did believe. That was something pure and true. He knew his father loved him…
“Why didn’t he come to protect you?”
“He stayed behind to fight!” the boy responded.
“Are you certain?”
Just three little words. That’s all it took to turn what he believed inside out. And yet, the man continued.
“Just the fact that this Tower exists proves that there are many secrets your father kept from you.”
Ben took a ragged breath, clamping his hands on either side of his head as if he could keep the darkness from getting inside. It wasn’t working. His voice was small and shaky as he tried to deny, “No… it wasn’t… like that!”
The man turned away. The burning red eyes no longer held Ben’s gaze. But the man had left something behind. Ben could feel it, like shadows moving under his own skin.
“Think about it,” the voice told him. “Think about it hard, child.”
Shadows shifted, making way for the man as he walked away. The room was replaced with a void of nothing. The darkness was vast as the oceans from home, like a great rip-tide that pulled him.
There was no one there to keep him from drowning.
Father was not going to come.
But in the midst of the overwhelming loneliness, he heard another voice. This one called his name, too.
But this one called him “Ben.”
With a heaving jolt, the boy opened his eyes. He saw Aur’s worried face hovering above him.
It was a dream…?
A nightmare. Just a terrible vision.
But where did it come from?
Even though he was awake now, Ben still felt as if there were shadows crawling under his skin.